From September 20th, to September 27th, the Long Branch festival, co-hosted by the Long Branch Business League, MHP and Montgomery and planning, brought twenty one performances to a newly-built stage at Flower Urban Park while transforming bare asphalt into creative public spaces with exciting nooks and crannies.
The festival also transformed local perceptions of what downtown Long Branch is all about.
For an entire week, Long Branch became a place of music, learning, good food and fun. Performances varied from rock improve, to traditional guitar to science education.
Opening night, Colombo Percutiva brought to the stage its distinctively warm Columbian style of Latin Rock.
The following day, Empresarios Musica brought the crowd to their feet with a rousing blend of salsa, reggae, and cumbia. One festival-goer was overhear saying, “This is the first time in 20 years I’ve danced!”
The number of such dances increased exponentially on the final Friday, when a 35-member Salvadoran marching band brought many hundreds of views to the park.
For children, on Saturday, Sept 21, thanks to Montgomery Parks, a massive climbing wall became available – for free. “There’s a climbing wall?!” one youngster was heard exclaiming. “I’m on it!” He took off running.
Activities for children and families on weekdays included drum circles, as well as the enlightening, exciting Eric Energy science show.
Such programming hit just the right not for Annie Tulkin, who, in a tweet, remarked: “Living my best Long Branch Life! Neighbors are literally talking non-stop about how great it is to have activity and music in the park.”
Music performers were equally enthused. Colombo Percutiva praised the beautiful setting and the chance to perform directly for the community.
The leader of Empresarios, Javier Miranda, told the Long Branch Newsletter that his group performs all year long in big clubs and festivals, but that the whole group had felt that Long Branch Festival had been the best and was their favorite.
Artist Calder Brannock, the festival’s artistic director, voiced particular satisfaction with the transformation of the alleyway at Pupusa Alley. With its new mural, temporary paintings and hanging decorations, Pupusa Alley was indeed enchanting – especially during the touching performance there by Cuban guitarist Reimy Perez Bauta.
Long Branch businesses were, of course, at the heart of the festiavl and its success. El Golfo, El Gavilan, and la Casita restaurants sold their authentic Latin food at the now famous Pupusa Alley. Other Long Branch stores, such as Roxanna Flowers & Gifts, Veronica’s Bakery & Cafe, P&P computers and El Arbol de Pan Bakery got involved by holding store specials and discounts during the festival week.